Asperger’s syndrome gets its name from Hans Asperger, an Austrian doctor who was the first to describe the disorder back in 1944, although the syndrome was only recognized as a unique disorder years later. It is a type of pervasive developmental disorder (PDD) which also includes autism. This group of PDD conditions presents as developmental delay of some basic skills; the most outstanding being the ability to comfortably socialize with others, to make use of imagination, and to have productive communication. The disorder usually presents in childhood, although often is not correctly diagnosed until adulthood.
In some respects Asperger’s syndrome has some similarities to autism, although autism is a more severe type of PDD. It can be said that Asperger’s syndrome is the mildest form of autism and includes higher functioning.
The child with Asperger’s syndrome usually will have normal intelligence. Cognitive development (i.e., math or reading skills) is not significantly delayed, nor is curiosity, behavior, or age-appropriate self-help abilities, nor are there any significant language development problems. Adaptive behavior impairment is only in the area of social interaction. Children with Asperger’s syndrome often talk early in their development. They may have a fascination with letters and numbers and may even be able to read words before they are able to understand their meanings.
Some Common Symptoms Associated with Asperger’s Syndrome
The child with Asperger’s syndrome has problems and awkwardness with social interactions. Conversing does not come easily; they have trouble initiating a conversation. Often, they do not make eye contact while speaking with another person. It is hard for them to make friends. There can be a close relationship with family members but inappropriate responses when dealing with others; for example, a child with Aperger’s syndrome may try to hug another child or scream at the child during their initial attempt to make contact.
A child with Asperger’s syndrome may display repetitive, odd movements or movements that are eccentric, clumsy or awkward, and they may show minimal facial expressions. Such a child may not well understand body language and tend to interpret language in a very literal sense or not understand language in context.
The child with Asperger’s syndrome might display preoccupations that are out of the ordinary, or feel the need to go through certain rituals, such as a specific order in getting dressed. There may be a preoccupation or near-obsessive interest in narrow and very specific areas of interest and a desire to absorb a lot of detailed information about or show intense interest in obscure topics such as doorknob styles or deep fat fryers.
Often children with Asperger’s syndrome display exceptional skills or talent in a particular area, such as math or music.
Only Recently Recognized As A Disorder
The number of people with Asperger’s syndrome is not known since it is only recently that Asperger’s syndrome has been recognized as a distinct disorder. In the U.S. and Canada, estimates range between 1 in 250 to 1 in 10,000. It is more common than autism and males are four times more likely to develop the disorder.
No cure, prevention or specific medication exists for Asperger’s syndrome as yet, but early diagnosis and a variety of therapies such as behavior modification, social skills therapy, occupational, speech, and/or physical therapy can reduce some of the undesirable behaviors and improve functioning.